Getting Fun Things Done
December 27, 2012 2:43 PM   Subscribe

How can I make my downtime more productive and fulfilling?

Here's a feeling I hate: sometimes I'll have free time, but instead of spending it on something I truly enjoy, I'll spend the time reading random New York Times articles, or watching a few episodes of a sitcom on Netflix, or aimlessly surfing around on twitter. I don't mind that this time is unproductive — I'm already fulfilling all my professional and personal obligations — but I don't like the fact that I spend so much time doing things that aren't even really that great. I love reading, writing, watching movies, going on walks, visiting museums, learning languages, and exploring, but I never seem to DO any of that stuff.

I've tried scheduling my leisure time in blocks and just forcing myself to get out of the house, but neither approach has yielded any long-term benefits. For every free morning I spend doing something cool, there are about 10 that I spend in my pajamas reading Wikipedia entries about uses for soup.

Any lifehacks (what a terrible word!) for making my leisure time more "productive" and filling it with more things that I actually love to do?
posted by jweed to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (8 answers total) 29 users marked this as a favorite
I use a browser plugin called StayFocusd that'll set a daily time limit for whatever sites you want,t hen block them. So you could set up, say, 10 minutes a day for screwing around and then add Wikipedia, the NYT, etc., to your blocklist. Once your 10 minutes is up, it blocks you from accessing them.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 2:47 PM on December 27, 2012

Sign up for something that costs money. Not much, just enough to incent you to put clothes on and go do it.

When I lived in Pittsburgh, I signed up for adult education classes at Pitt. I did archetectural walking tours, learned about feng shui, met cool people and had a great time.

If you want to get more exercise, get an app that tracks your miles, you'll become enthused about getting to the next star or happy face or whatever. (Ain't gamification great?)

Learn a new hobby, on-line gaming, or bridge or something where you commit to meet up with other folks.

Building in commitment of time, people or money will help you move along.
posted by Ruthless Bunny at 2:59 PM on December 27, 2012

Use a read later service like Instapaper, and save articles for reading later - that'll keep you from getting lost in a labrynth of Wikipedia articles. Then you can read articles when you really want to read them.

Even better, use Instapaper Placebo, so you skip ever reading them.

For television, have a list of stuff you want to watch saved somewhere. That way you can watch those, and not waste time channel surfing.
posted by backwards guitar at 2:59 PM on December 27, 2012

Make a mini bucket list of small things you want too do. Keep adding to it. That way you can look at it in the morning and whatever fills your mood for the day, go out and do. I am sure if you keep building it, you can find things that interest you enough to over ride the lazing about. Once you start going out and doing things (or work on a hobby, etc.) you will develop it as a habit and you will find yourself doing those things more and more.

Also, make plans with other people (meet for morning coffee, plan a short walk). Making the commitment to someone else will help get you out and about.
posted by Vaike at 3:39 PM on December 27, 2012

Tell yourself you're going to do a specific project for a set amount of time each night - I think 45 minutes is a good start. It could be cooking, writing, working out, painting, whatever is personally fulfilling and something you want to do more of. After you do it for 45 minutes, don't let yourself feel guilty about the random surfing/tv watching. Unless you get into "flow" mode and lose track of the time!
posted by wannabecounselor at 6:38 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

Okay, I don't know if this will work but:
What about reading the biography of someone you deeply admire, and then doing whatever they did when they were exactly your age?... Repeat as needed.
posted by kettleoffish at 8:12 PM on December 27, 2012 [1 favorite]

When I find myself doing this, I'm often looking for something new to stimulate my brain. I don't seem to care what it is, similar to the uses for soup articles you read. What I care about is the fact that it's new information.

Also, the internet is easy because it's always close to hand - when I'm less-than-awake first thing in the morning, I only have to press a few buttons and away we go.

So, I find that going shopping after work, when I'm not near an easier option, works. Or maybe making plans with a friend, where I have to keep face with someone else who will call me out on my procrastinating. Making it easier to do X instead of the Y that I'd normally do makes a huge difference.
posted by Solomon at 1:47 AM on December 28, 2012

Design your environment so that doing the things you WANT to do becomes the path of least resistance.

Want to be reading Tolstoy instead of Wikipedia articles about soup? (Personally I think the latter sounds pretty great too, but hey, it's your question.) Figure out which comfy, hard-to-get-out-of armchair you naturally tend to flop down in after work, and then make that into Tolstoy Central. Stow all websurfing devices in the next room; insert a side-table containing War and Peace, an electric kettle or whiskey decanter, and a bowl of pistachios. Decorate the nearby wall with this chart. Stock the shelf under your side table with French & Russian dictionaries, or whatever you might otherwise get up to search for (with concomitant risk of sidetracking).

Human beings are creatures of habit. Right now, habit is your enemy. But if you respect it and coax it, you two can form a powerful alliance.
posted by feral_goldfish at 1:16 PM on December 28, 2012

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